Bold Building Blocks Escape to Produce a Crucial Victory
Paul Magriel, 1979
New York Times, May 10, 1979
American Stock Exchange The American Stock Exchange Annual Tournament, under the direction of Susan Bender, was completed recently after several months of elimination rounds.

First place went to 25-year-old Michael Rosenberg, a talented young Scotsman from Glasgow, who took up backgammon seriously just a year ago when he moved to New York City. A natural games player, he had previously gained international recognition as a bridge expert and member of the British Bridge Team. The runner-up was Charles Silverman; semifinalists were Robin Katz and Mel Weiss.

The diagrammed position illustrates a critical situation that arose in the 21-point finals match between Rosenberg (Black) and Silverman (White). Many of their coworkers on the Amex watched as the lead changed hands several times in this hard-fought contest. Finally, after more than four hours and 20 games, the score was tied 19–19. In the next game, Black built an early lead and doubled, White accepted, and later the position shown in the diagram was reached. The outcome of the match now depended on the next few rolls.

Black to play 4-1.
Black has a definite advantage, despite White’s lead in the race: White’s home board has deteriorated and, of greater importance, White has a man stuck in Black’s home board. This man sits on the 2-point behind Black’s broken 5-point prime but is able to run out with a 5. To win the game, Black must contain this last man.

With the roll of 4-1, Black’s immediate concern is to deploy his men in the outfield in order to get the best possible coverage to hit White if he leaps out. Black, however, must plan ahead and consider how to permanently prevent White from escaping — as long as White is sitting unmolested on the 2-point, he will constantly threaten to run out.

(a) 11/6
(b) 14/10, 11/10
One method is to prepare to attack White and close him out. To implement this plan, Black can bring a builder into his home board, 11/6, to hit White later. Another game plan to prevent White from escaping permanently is to form a full 6-point prime. Accordingly, Black might consider playing 14/10, 11/10, in order to keep all his men in the outfield as builders for the bar-point (7-point).
(c) 11/7, 8/7

After much thought, Rosenberg rejected both these plays. Instead, he boldly and correctly played 11/7, 8/7, making the bar-point, but leaving a blot on the 8-point exposed to a direct 6-shot by White. Rather than wait and give White many chances to escape, Black goes directly for a prime, and so forces the issue at once.

If White fails to roll a 6 immediately, Black will then be a strong favorite (29 combinations out of 36) to cover the 8-point, thus ending White’s chances. Further, even if White rolls the 6 and hits Black, Black may still reenter and hit White back. In the actual game, Rosenberg’s play succeeded: Silverman failed to throw the needed 6; Rosenberg covered next roll and easily went on to win.

XG logo
Tom Keith 2013 
Match to 21
White 19, Black 19
White owns 2-cube
Black rolls 4-1

1296 games with VR
Checker play: 2-ply
Cube play: 3-ply Red

4-1: Game BG   Equity
1 11/7, 8/7 W
+0.5430 x  (c)
6 14/10, 11/10 W
+0.4111 (0.1319)  (b)
7 11/6 W
+0.4036 (0.1394)  (a)

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